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The Civic Scene: Queens, Australia deal similarly with terrorism

My wife and I just returned from a month-long vacation in Australia and New Zealand and discovered that they are all very similar to the United States. Australia and the United States are the same size, although Australia’s population is only about 20 million.

New Zealand consists of two tropical islands but only has a population of about 4 million, which is about twice the number of people in Queens. They are both modern countries with cities that look like our cities and have similar ethnic populations, although they are not as diverse.

During my trip, I reinforced my knowledge that Australia and New Zealand have been U.S. allies during World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Our troops fought and died together.

Australian foreign policy supports our stand on Iraq, although some Australian newspaper articles and columns are against the country’s involvement. New Zealand has not yet made a decision on supporting our actions. Of course, not everyone in the United States is for an invasion of Iraq, as we saw from the recent demonstration in Washington, D.C.

The author of “Wabbling along the road to war,” a full-page story in the Jan. 21 New Zealand Herald, hoped that British Prime Minister Tony Blair might slow our march to war. There also was a big story with maps in the Jan. 6 edition of The Australian, headlined “US war machine rolls on to Death Road.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has not taken a stand on this issue but backs the United Nations and has high poll ratings, as does Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Clark had tried to make the policy that her region was statically benign, when two bombs in Bali, Indonesia night clubs killed and injured hundreds of Australian vacationers.

Like us, the Australians have a “terrorist alert.” A Jan. 7 article in the Sydney Morning Herald quoted a federal government official as saying that the “terrorist alert would remain in force and could stay for years.”

As officials in the United States have done, the Australian government is encouraging people to report suspicious behavior and has set up a hotline. It also plans to mail every household in the country a booklet with instructions. I just received a card from Community Board 8 that lists the New York Police Department’s toll-free Terrorism Hotline — 1-888-NYC-SAFE.

Australia is one of our trading partners. A firm recently provided our Navy with a large catamaran assault vessel that can ferry troops ashore during an invasion. U.S. warships often come to northern Australian ports for repair or for rest and relaxation for the soldiers. We buy lamb and beef from these two countries. There are McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway store franchises, as well as Microsoft, in the large cities I visited.

The Jan. 7 New Australian also had articles about terrorism. One writer criticized the Australian advertising campaign, which warns people to be alert to terrorism, as an expensive activity that will make the population feel guilty about not being alert enough if there are acts of terror. The author argues that this diminishes political responsibility if there is an attack and criticizes the $1.4 billion being spent to strengthen Australia’s counter-terrorism capabilities.

Another article analyzes Osama bin Laden’s terror organization. It explains that the current organization is not just built on traditional village, clan or tribal loyalties. Bin Laden has created a structure similar to militant Marxism with a cell structure, so the whole group cannot be stopped at one time. It uses a dedicated cadre, maintains tight discipline, promotes self-sacrifice, encourages reverence for the leadership, is guided by a program of action and can continually self reproduce.

One of the writers wanted the government to promote a “unified Australian society that is tolerant of different customs that are compatible with Australian values.” This sounds good but I don’t know what is meant by “Australian values.”

Queens has similar problems because like Australia, we have people from many different countries and cultures. To love and be loyal to their new country they must feel they belong.

We must accept multiculturalism but at the same time integrate our citizens into one society with its rich culture, history and opportunities for all. The problem is that some of our liberal values, which make us what we are, do not exactly mesh with some conservative traditional values of others.

A poor, deprived and alienated person is more likely to support terrorism or crime. This is a problem our leaders must face and solve if we are to be one nation and be able to work together to overcome terrorism.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK

For some time, the civic associations around St. John’s University have complained of the problems caused by the large number of students housed on campus. I just read that SJU has hired the head of security at LaGuardia Airport, Mark Hatfield, as the new vice president in charge of public safety and risk management.

This is a good response to the problem that has concerned surrounding communities; however, the school’s policy of creating a gigantic school on a small campus in the midst of an urban residential community will create problems.

At least the school is trying to be a “better neighbor even if it can’t be a good neighbor.”

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